North Carolina Virtual SchoolThis is a featured page

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Week 2 - The Basics

NC Virtual Public School is "among the largest state virtual schools in the country" according the Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning report. It does not offer a full-time program but serves entirely as a supplemental resource for students largely in 9-12th grades but also has some K-8 offerings.

  • How is the school trying to present or sell itself to the public? This is a combination of the “look” and content of the website.
    • The school is obviously trying to present a professional and well-established image to the public. From a "look and feel" perspective, the site is well organized and easy to navigate. The menu bar at the left provides information about the school, courses, parent & student information, teachers, and other related information. The menu bar along the top includes the school's history, the director's blog, instructional calendars and a directory of personnel.
    • The content of the site is equally palatable. A video introduction from the Governor of North Carolina is immediately apparent on the site's home page. The governor invites NC students to participate in online courses to supplemental their traditional schooling. She is also quoted on the site informing students that they have the power to "manage your education, further your career, and increase your job choices." There are also podcasts, press releases and a FAQ. Finally, there are links to NCVPS on Twitter & Facebook, and student testimonials. And that's all on the home page alone!
    • Other portions of the site include details about the school organization and state legislation, course descriptions and requirements (materials, technical, scheduling, etc...), documents (registration manual, IEP/504 guidelines, a media release form), parent and student information about e-learning and standards, teaching requirements and instructional models, LEA partnership and research, technologies used in courses, learn and earn program, and help/feedback.
    • As is probably evident by now, the site is quite comprehensive and is clearly trying to attrack more and more students to enroll in these online courses.
  • What are the basics for your school? See if you can find the following: Number of discrete students, number of enrollments, number of teachers, student/teacher ratio (you will have to calculate this from the information given), number of courses offered, number of students in each course.
    • According to the Keeping Pace report, NCVPS had 15,721 enrollments for the 2008-2009 school year. This represented a greater than 50% increase over the previous year. The report also noted 123 discrete courses and 6% of courses licensed.
    • None of the information above is available on the website, however I did send an email requesting such information and will see if I get a response.
  • If you were a parent choosing a school for your child, or if you were a student looking for an online school, is there anything missing from the website that would be important to you?
    • Again, the site is quite comprehensive but I do think that a search engine of indexed courses would be beneficial. Additionally, a sample course should be available to demonstrate how such a class at NCVPS would be implemented and how it would feel from the student's perspective.
  • What words do you see coming up again and again in the school's descriptions?
    • Using Wordle, the big words that come up over and over again are: School, Courses, Online, NCVPS, Student, Students. The next most prevalent set are: Teacher, Teachers, North, Carolina, Learning, Assignments, Credit, 21st, Recovery. Clearly from this alone, the school is focused on developing 21st century learners through online courses and quality teachers. They are also extremely interested in credit recovery.
    • In reading through the site, the other big words/themes that seem to come up are: Success, Personalize, 21st Century, Opportunities.
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Week 4 - Instructional Design

The information provided on the NCVPS site for each course is fairly limited. Generally speaking, there is a high level description of the course and the prerequisites listed. And, that's about it.
  • Where are the school’s courses coming from?
    • Most of the courses appear to be homegrown. Only the AP courses are outsourced.
  • Are they homegrown or bought from another company, or some combination?
    • The AP courses come from The College Board. The credit recovery, honors, and elective courses come from NCVPS themselves. It also seems that a few of the courses are outsourced to FLVS. AP Microeconomics/Macroeconomics specifically notes this on the syllabus and AP US History notes that the textbook comes from FLVS.
  • What is the instructional design model, or instructional design principles, that are evident in these courses?
    • There are several aspects of the instructional design model on which these courses can be evaluated. In my instructional design class last semester, we constructed a visualization which captures these various aspects. I will use my visualization (found here: Instructional Design Visualization) as the evaluation method.
    • Learning Methods
      • Both AP courses and non AP courses follow a pattern of formal learning with instruction that is fairly structured and where the learners interact with teachers and content. Both types of courses do have a limited ability for students to participation with each other using discussion boards and online chat, which leans toward some informal learning.
    • The Instructional Designer and the Learning Scientist
      • It seems apparent that the designers for both types of classes lean more towards implementation in practice vs. the theoretical. This is apparent when examining some of AP course syllabi. For example, AP English Composition requires students to write at least 5 comprehensive papers while AP Computer Science requires students to complete assignments/labs examining or writing programs. e-Commerce Honors requires students to design e-Commerce websites.
      • From a learning scientist perspective, it appears that both NCVPS and the College Board engage in ongoing curriculum development, evaluating and revising as necessary. NCVPS specifically states that "we continue to work each semester on revising course content to meet the needs of 21st Century Learners."
    • Learning Strategies and Learning Technologies
      • The AP courses offered are clearly knowledge centered and assessment centered. The ultimate goal is for students taking these courses to pass the AP exam and receive college credit. There is little, if any, focus on what students want to learn or interaction with the community. The other courses that NCVPS offers are also primarily knowledge-centered although I would concede some amount of learner-centered behavior through the discussion groups and online chats.
      • Without a doubt, online courses in general, and NCVPS's courses specifically, rely more on technology integration as a delivery method over teaching technology for technology's sake. That is not to say that courses such as AP Computer Science, Computer Applications and Programming are not offered, but simply that that the focus is primarily on using technology as a tool for learning. There is also a focus on promoting 21st century skills that students will need as they enter the 21st century workforce.
    • Other Aspects
      • Finally, several other aspects of instructional design are apparent in both types of classes. These include focusing on authenticity of learning, reflection & revision of work, and scaffolding on prior knowledge.
  • What is the role of the teacher in these courses?
    • The instructors provide weekly assignments, feedback on the work submitted and guidance as the students progress through the modules. They are in constant communication with students and also conduct telephone conferences throughout the course.
  • Do they meet all or most of the standards outlined in the iNACOL National Standards of Quality for Online Courses?
    • Yes, as per the NCVPS website: "All NCVPS courses will meet the curriculum content standards that are set forth by the NC Department of Public Instruction and all of our courses will meet the recognized quality assurance standards for e-learning courses. These standards are set forth also by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) (pdf, 23kb). Students will be taught by qualified teachers and the grades that they earn in their NCVPS course will transfer to their local school and become part of their academic record."

Week 5 - Online Teachers

The role of "teacher" differs in different online schools.Based on what you have learned about the two schools (one state and one charter/for-profit) that you chose to research, who are the teachers, how are they trained, and what role(s) do they play? Also see if you can find the teacher-student ratio. (Note that you may not be able to figure this out for some schools.)
  • Who are the teachers?
    • "The North Carolina State Board of Education requires teachers who teach for North Carolina Virtual Public School to have either a North Carolina teaching license or be eligible to hold a NC teaching license in the areas in which they are applying to teach. Lateral entry teachers currently teaching in NC must submit a letter from the school confirming employment. Teachers need to have excellent computer skills and be prepared to spend more time online with students, facilitating learning, than in a typical face to face classroom."
  • How are they trained?
    • "Online Training will be required to be considered" to teach at NCVPS. Teachers must "have either DATOC (which was renamed to TOC) or Teaching Online Course, which is available through Learn NC. If you have previous online training, please be prepared to show documentation of training and NCVPS will consider this on a case by case basis."
  • What role(s) do they play?
    • All courses are instructor-led. Instructors as as facilitators ensuring "group interaction, differential instruction, project based and inquiry learning, while increasing student-student and teacher-student exchanges." Teachers utilize an asynchronous online format in addition to synchronous tools, "such as whiteboard, text-based chat, and telephone or V.O.I.P. (Voice Over IP)..., utilized to provide real-time communication and additional support to online students. Instructors are required to establish weekly online office hours to support individualized instructional needs through whiteboard instruction; communicate with students via phone, and organize small group, text-based exchanges to increase student engagement and online collaborative opportunities."
  • What is the teacher-student ratio?
    • This information was not available.
Week 6 - Student Interaction

  • What form does student-student interaction take in these schools? (For example, discussion forums, group projects, out-of-school meetings, virtual clubs, etc.)
    • Students use email, instant messaging and online chat forums to interact with their teachers and other students.Teachers and students may talk to one another over the phone or over their computers.
    • Tools that NCVPS uses for student-student interaction and other activities include:
      • Blackboard
      • Google Talk
      • Meeting Wizard
      • Elluminate
      • Wetpaint
      • Bloglines
      • Picnik
      • Jumpcut
      • Gcast
      • Google Docs and Spreadsheets
      • Vyew
      • Wimba
      • Active Worlds
    • As per, "Through web-based, asynchronous tools, such as discussion boards, email, file exchange, collaboration groups, and online testing, student-centered learning communities are established to promote student engagement and active learning in the online environment. All courses are instructor-led to facilitate group interaction, differential instruction, project based and inquiry learning, while increasing student-student and teacher-student exchanges.

      In addition to the asynchronous online format, synchronous tools, such as whiteboard, text-based chat, and telephone or V.O.I.P. (Voice Over IP) are utilized to provide real-time communication and additional support to online students. Instructors are required to ... organize small group, text-based exchanges to increase student engagement and online collaborative opportunities.

      The North Carolina Virtual Public School supports a wide array of instructional materials, online resources and communication tools to foster higher levels of cognitive learning, critical thinking, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and 21st Century learning skills. These instructional resources provide for student interaction with outside experts, simulations and case studies, role playing, debates, brainstorming, group projects, and the use of technology for student products and alternate assessment practices."

Week 2 - The Basics
Week 4 - Instructional Design
Week 5 - Online Teachers
Week 6 - Student Interaction

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